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Fire department conducts controlled house burn

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News Worthington, 56187
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Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Fire Department led a controlled burn training session Sunday at a home at 830 S. Lake St., located south of Shine Bros. Corp.

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“At the end of that street is a dead end and there is some land behind it,” Worthington Fire Chief Rick von Holdt said. “I believe the plan is to turn that land into farmland now that the house is down.”

Sixteen members of the Worthington Fire Department, as well as three from the Adrian Fire Department and one from the Round Lake Fire Department, all participated in the WFD’s third controlled burn. These training sessions are few and far between, von Holdt explained, but they are crucial.

“We have a burn trailer set up through Minnesota West, but it’s important to have this kind of training in a house,” von Holdt said. “When entering a house you don’t know the floor plan, and there are more obstacles you have to face to fight a fire in a house.”

When von Holdt was approached about the project last year, he took it upon himself to start the process in making it happen.

“The process can be extensive,” he said. “You have to first get a burn permit from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), then have a professional inspect the house for lead and other hazardous materials and finally get it approved by the city council.”

Bad weather was also a factor in determining when the training session would begin.

“I actually had the burn permit since the end of November 2013, but due to all the cold weather we’ve been having, Sunday was the first nice day we could do this,” von Holdt said.

The crew’s training focused on varying ways to attack a house fire in different situations.

Fires were started in three of the house’s bedrooms, and a team was subsequently sent in to extinguish the blazes. Fire was later set again to the bedrooms, and it was allowed to build before a team acted. Finally, fire was ignited once more in the bedrooms, and the flames were allowed to spread.

“It was really cool because the house had four different levels that we could do different scenarios with,” von Holdt said. “We practiced what to do if there was someone in the house, (with) wind direction and creating fog patterns to extinguish the fire.

“During the drill it gave, at least to some of the newer guys, an idea of what it’s like during a house fire,” he added. “The smoke is so thick and black you have to crawl on the ground for the cool air, and to feel around the ground to know where you’re going.”

The Worthington Fire Department receives about 100 calls a year. About 20 of those are structure fires, according to von Holdt.

Most area people learning to become a firefighter in the local area do their training on either car fires or at the burn trailer set up through Minnesota West.

“There isn’t a lot of opportunity to do training like this, but it is extremely crucial to have training on a house fire,” von Holdt said.

Schaap Sanitation and Shine Bros. Corp. disposed of the remains of the house after the crew was finished.

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Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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